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Connections Matter

The number one factor that protects kids from making bad choices is being connected to consistent, reliable adults at home, in school, and in the community.

A recent survey of students in Suburban Ramsey County, shows that fewer children and youth this year than last, can identify adults in their lives (other than their parents) who care about them, want them to do well in school, and who they can turn to for help with their studies or other concerns.   In addition, one in ten cannot identify even one adult, outside their home or school, who really cares about them and wants them to be a success[1].

Research shows that even one caring adult can change the trajectory of a child’s life. National studies have shown kids who have three or more caring adults (besides parents or guardians) who support them:

  • Feel happier and more hopeful
  • Do better in school and
  • Are less likely to rely on drinking, smoking, or drugs to feel good or fit in.

Children and young people grow and develop within the context of family, peers, neighborhood, schools, community, and the larger cultureWhen all of these circles of support work together to create positive, healthy environments – kids thrive.

What Parents Can Do:

  • CONNECT with your children.  Take time to really listen to your child.  Be involved and interested in their school and other activities.  Be aware of their interests and nurture their passions.  Get to know their friends and include them in your family activities. 

Be willing to talk when they're ready to talk.  Try to stop what you're doing and give your child your full attention for at least a little time each day.

Respect their growing independence while still providing support and setting limits.  Be personally and psychologically available to your child, especially during their teenage years.  Make it easy for your teen to talk honestly with you.  Your investment now will pay off later.

  • CONNECT your children to other caring adults.  Expand the circle of support around your child by inviting safe and responsible adults you know to your child's school events or to milestone celebrations.

All kids need adults, besides their parents, who they can talk with and turn to for support and encouragement. 

  • CONNECT with other parents.  Other parents, especially the parents of your children’s friends, can be a wonderful resource and support and, as your children get older and more independent, a strong network for developing common limits and monitoring teens’ activities.  Ask other parents to be an extra set of eyes and ears to help keep your child safe and do the same for them. 

What Faith Communities Can Do:

  • Focus on building relationships with kids and young people.  Research shows that congregations who are most successful in keeping youth involved past bar or bat mitzvah or confirmation were those that deliberately focused on nurturing caring adult-youth relationships, as well as providing opportunities for youth service and dealing with values.
  • Make a commitment to insuring that every child and young person is connected to at least one adult in your congregation.  For step-by-step instructions for doing this, visit our website and search for “invisible mentoring”.
  • Encourage intergenerational opportunities that connect children and young people with elders and seniors.  Can you offer intergenerational music groups, support groups, service projects, study groups, or activity groups?  How can children and young people be resources?  What can they share and teach?  Are there opportunities where they can be helpful while also learning new skills?
  • Invite young people to discuss their experiences with elders.  Encourage them to share ideas on how to improve programming and atmosphere for children and young people. 

What Community Members Can Do: 

  • Pay special attention to kids who might be growing up in environments that aren’t reliable or supportive.  Of the children and young people you know, ask yourself who is:

–  Not very connected to their parents or guardians?
–  Not very connected to friends?
–  Lacking other caring adults in their life?
–  Not very connected to teachers or other adults at school?

  • Commit to being a reliable source of support for them.  For tips on building relationships with youth, visit the How Are the Children section of our website.

What Cities and Civic Groups Can Do:

  • Provide fun things to do and supervised places for children and young people to hang out after school, on weekends and during the summer.   Research tells us that how youth spend their free time is a more powerful predictor of risk behaviors than demographic variables like race or family income.  Youth who are “involved” with their school, their academics, their after school programs, and the larger community are less likely to participate in risk-taking behaviors.  Involvement in such activities facilitates the development of skills and increases exposure to engaged peers and positive role models.

What Youth Can Do:

  • Build relationships with the adults in your lives.  If you can’t think of three to five adults you could turn to, in addition to parents or guardians, ask for help to brainstorm some possibilities.  Think about godparents, aunts or uncles, grandparents, teachers, coaches, neighbors, employers, older siblings, etc.  Once you’ve selected your five, think about how you can let them know you’d like to get to know them better and seek them out when you need someone to talk with someone.
  • Reach out to other kids you know who might not have a strong support system in their lives.  Let them know you care and help them think about developing their support system. 

Resources: